Following the departure of Todd Graham, the coaching staff at Arizona State underwent some enormous changes yet again. The inconsistencies of coaching seemed to be a common theme during the off season for the past few years, but with Graham leaving, one couldn’t help but feel it was inevitable.

Initially, the blow was softened after it was announced that Billy Napier would remain the offensive coordinator, and that he would also be the Associate Head Coach. However, just days after assuming the AHC job, he left for a head coaching position at Louisiana Lafayette.

To make matters worse, defensive coordinator Phil Bennett broke the news shortly after that he would not be returning due to health issues.

All of this happened less than two weeks before the first-ever early signing period, putting immense pressure on the Sun Devils to fill the vacated positions, and to do so as quickly as possible.

Now, nearly a month after the changes, the coaching staff at Arizona State is in place. Here’s a look at who has filled what position.

Head Coach – Herm Edwards

Edwards was announced as the new head coach shortly after the firing of Todd Graham. Athletic Director Ray Anderson seemed to have him in mind as a candidate for quite some time, as the two of them go way back.

Many people were not pleased with this hire due to the fact that he hasn’t been coaching much lately. With the exception of coaching the Under Armour All America Bowl, his primary role was as a TV personality with ESPN. The fact that he had mediocre records as the head coach of the Jets and the Chiefs didn’t help ease fan’s nerves.

Edwards is known for his motivational speaking ability, and former athletes from all aspects of the sport are saying that they would love for their child to play under him.

The biggest misconception that critics everywhere seem to have is that he doesn’t know how to coach the game. Just because he didn’t find great success as an NFL coach does not automatically correlate to him being a poor college coach.

A prime example of this is Alabama’s coach Nick Saban. Arguably the greatest college football coach of all time, he didn’t find loads of success while with the Miami Dolphins. At the end of two seasons, the Dolphins’ overall record was a combined 15-17. However, he has been able to bring enormous amounts of success to Alabama.

Just because one has been out of football for a while does not equate to being a poor coaching candidate. Edwards is a former conrerback that played for the Eagles, Rams, and Falcons. His experience on the field will be valuable, since he has played at the highest level.

John Simon – Runningbacks/Assistant Head Coach

Simon returns to the Sun Devils after his prior two seasons with the team. The former NFL player and motivational speaker was responsible for one of the largest turnarounds in the rushing game during the second half of a season.

The Sun Devils finished the 2017 season with the 30th highest overall graded rushing game, according to Pro Football Focus. This comes after being near the bottom in 2016, rated the 41st worst graded attack.

Prior to joining the Sun Devils, Simon was a coach with Southern Miss. He also brings years of high school coaching experience to the table.

Being from the south, it is likely that Simon would be responsible for recruiting the south eastern states, especially Louisiana.

Rob Likens – Offensive Coordinator

Likens was with the Sun Devils last season as a co-offensive coordinator, as well as the wide receivers coach. This season, he will be the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. He expressed that his decision to stay was largely because of the constant turnover the players had in the past.

“After seeing what they’ve (the players) gone through, I knew I had to take this opportunity. To be a source of stability for these young men and to have the chance to see them develop and grow as individuals is the reason I got into this business,” Likens said in a press release.

Likens has 25 years of collegiate coaching experience and was the offensive coordinator at five schools prior to his current job with the Sun Devils. Likens will likely have a great focus on recruiting in the areas of Northern California and Arizona.

Charlie Fisher – Wide Receivers

Fisher will assume Likens’ old position. He joins the Sun Devils from Western Illinois, and brings over 30 years of coaching experience with him. Prior to coaching at Western Illinois for two years, he was the offensive coordinator at Richmond.

He also has spent time as an assistant coach at Penn State, Miami (Ohio), Vanderbilt, Temple, North Carolina State, West Georgia, Lenoir-Rhyne, Ole Miss, and Eastern Kentucky.

Likens and Fisher have a friendship that reaches beyond the football field and dates back to when Fisher was at West Georgia and Likens was at Northern Alabama.

Fisher is known as a very strong and relentless recruiter that has shown his ability to develop athletes. It is hard to guess where his primary focus of recruiting is, but the Sun Devils need work on recruiting in the northeast, so he may start there.

Dave Christiansen – Offensive Line

Christiansen was already a member of the Sun Devils coaching staff last season in a non-coaching role. He joined Arizona State from Texas A&M, where he last coached in 2015.

He is also the former Head Coach at Wyoming, and held other coaching positions with Toledo, Missouri, Western Washington, Eastern Washington, Washington, and Idaho State. He played on Washington’s offensive line from 1980-1982.

He will likely recruit all over the nation, as the Sun Devils need to step it up in this area. There have been improvements in the recruits coming in for the 2018 o-line class, but they still need work.

Danny Gonzales – Defensive Coordinator

Gonzales joins the Sun Devils after spending the last seven seasons with San Diego State. Prior to the start of the 2017 season, Gonzales was named the Aztec’s defensive coordinator. During the season, he helped lead the defense to an 11th place finish in total defense for the FBS.

Defense has been a struggle for the Sun Devils for quite some time now, and the addition of Gonzales should help bring improvement. In 2017, the Aztecs came out victorious over the Sun Devils in their match-up, so it will be interesting to see how the 2018 game will unfold.

Gonzales will likely be responsible for recruiting out of the San Diego area, since he has ties to it. It would not be far fetched to also see him responsible for recruiting the inland empire.

Shaun Nua – Defensive Line

Nua joins the Sun Devils from the Naval Academy, where he spent the last six seasons coaching the defensive line. During his time, he helped coach the Navy to a 52-27 overall record.

Prior to joining the staff at the Naval Academy, he was a coach at Brigham Young University, where he also earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Nua began his collegiate athletic career at Eastern Arizona College before transferring to BYU. During his time on the field as a Cougar, Nua was a defensive end.

Nua was drafted in 2005, and will bring NFL experience to Arizona State. He played for the Pittsburgh Steelers for three years and was a member of the 2006 Super Bowl Championship team before finishing up his career in Buffalo.

Nua is an American Samoan, and will look to help with recruiting efforts of Samoan and Polynesian athletes.

Antonio Pierce – Linebackers

Pierce comes to the Sun Devils from Long Beach Polytechnic High School where he served as the team’s head coach. Long Beach Poly is known as a national powerhouse, and has already proved to be a beneficial hire for Arizona State.

Putting the rivalry aside for this coaching position, he is a former University of Arizona Wildcat. After his time in Tucson, he was an undrafted free agent that was signed by the Washington Redskins, where he spent four seasons. Following that, Pierce went to the Giants, helping them earn their third Super Bowl Championship.

Pierce brings not only a ton of NFL level experience to the program, but also will be incredibly beneficial in terms of recruiting in California.

coming to the


Coach Herm said it Best “Jump on the

now”. #Forks

— Antonio Pierce (@AntonioPierce) January 10, 2018

Tony White – Cornerbacks

White also comes to ASU from San Diego State, where he spent the last seven seasons as the cornerbacks coach and the recruiting coordinator for the Aztecs. He has been recognized as one of the best recruiters among the non-power-five programs.

He has spent time with UNM and UCLA in the past, as well as a high school coach in California.

White played football at UCLA, and spent time playing football in the Canadian League following the conclusion of his NCAA career.

Shawn Slocum – Associate Head Coach/Special Teams/Outside Linebackers

Slocum returns for his fourth season with the Sun Devils as not only the special teams coach, but also as the outside linebackers coach and associate head coach. Hired in Spring 2015, Slocum brings with him 25 years of top-level coaching experience.

The special teams coach helped shape former ASU kicker Zane Gonzalez into one of the universities top athletes in recent years. With the departure of Gonzalez, there was a big gap that needed to be filled and Slocum did so by helping to recruit former Alabama commit and local Arizona talent Brandon Ruiz.

Slocum also helped elevate the level of the outside linebackers like Antonio Longino, whose 22.5 tackles for loss in the 2015 season ranked as the sixth-highest single-season total in school history.

Donnie Yantis – Assistant Coach and Recruiting Coordinator

Yantis was originally hired to help with recruiting leading up to the 2016 season. His previous title was Assistant Athletics Director for Football Recruiting, but will now provide additional contribution to the offensive coaching staff.

Previously at Arizona Christian University, he developed the program from the bottom. Prior to that, he was the head coach for 14 years at Paradise Valley High School. His local connection is a big reason that he was brought on to the coaching staff, as the Sun Devils look to continue to improve local recruiting efforts.

The initial hire of Edwards as the new head coach seemed questionable, but he has knocked it out of the park when it comes to putting together a coaching staff. All of them have hit the ground running, and are pressing hard to round out the last few weeks of recruiting strong.




This article first appeared on and was syndicated with permission.


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